Mr. Rob Davis
RE: Response to Questions sent to Commissioner Tim Freeman
January 15, 2020
I am writing in response to the questions you posed to Commissioner Freeman in an email dated January 14, 2020, sent at 2:56 pm.
I would like to point out for the record that most of the responses to your questions have been presented to you in written and oral forms on numerous occasions. We have answered your questions with accuracy and honesty, even though our answers have not been accurately reflected in your news articles, stories or blogs.
Many of the questions presented are of a slanderous nature with malicious accusations, speculation and assumptions that are simply not true. You obviously have a pre-determined opinion about this topic, and are unwilling to report with an unbiased, factual representation of the truth. Yet, here we are, willing to respond truthfully to the questions posed.
First, I would like to address your conjecture that Commissioner Freeman does not like baseball. That is a totally unfounded and untrue statement. He specifically told you he did not enjoy attending live baseball games.
Exact quote from your email: “When we spoke a few months ago, you denied attending a Nationals baseball game during one of your SRS-funded DC lobbying trips, saying that you did not like baseball. You did attend a Nationals game in 2012; you have a photo of yourself at the game on your Facebook page. Why did you attend the game if you don’t like baseball?”
No, he did not attend Nationals baseball games during any of his recent trips to Washington, D.C., for which he was attending forest related educational conferences, and a special event via a personal invitation from the President of the United States. Yes, he did attend a Nationals game in 2012, while he was a State Representative, but he did not enjoy the experience. He found the seats at the game uncomfortable. Hence, he has not been interested in attending another live game. I am however confused as to the relevance of this line of questioning, as how it relates to his job and Title III dollars? This appears to be a personal, slanderous and unfounded attack on his character.
Further, I have a question for you. Is it your position that anyone that travels on behalf of a business or government entity, is not allowed any personal time, using personal dollars to observe, tour or enjoy the sites in that city? Has anyone at the Oregonian ever gone on a tour or attended a baseball game while on assignment or while attending a conference in another city? Has any other elected official in the history of the United States ever taken personal time, on their own dime, to take in the sites while attending a government conference or business meeting? Can you provide evidence of your findings on this matter? Further, as you can see, no Title III or County funds were used to attend any sporting events or tours or pay for personal items during visits to Washington, D.C.
I would like to remind you once again that the Title III dollars in question are restricted funds instituted and approved by the United States Congress. They can only be used for a very narrow scope of approved projects under strict usage guidelines, again governed and approved by Congress. Educational travel is one of only three approved and allowable uses for these particular funds. The other two allowable uses are Communities for Healthy Forests and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services. As much as Douglas County and the other 700 counties that received these funds would like, we are not able to use them for libraries, public safety, law enforcement or “basic services” as portrayed in the news articles. It is simply; not legal. Although available online, we would be happy to provide the Title III fund guide information that accurately outlines and details the approved usage and projects.
Your questions regarding expenses:
1) Flight upgrades to first class and premium class:
The only instance for first class travel was for one leg of a trip to Washington, D.C., for which Commissioner Freeman received a personal invitation from the President of the United States, to attend a special event at the Whitehouse, with only a 5-day travel notice. The only seat available for one leg of the flight was in first class. As it clearly noted on the receipt provided, Commissioner Freeman, personally paid the county back for the difference of the first class ticket for that flight. Any minor upgrades for premium class are for isle seats to accommodate the larger stature of the Commissioner, as well as to comply with specific airline size restrictions for passengers.
2) Rarely used satellite phones that cost the county $6500 plus monthly billing;
Satellite phones are an essential part of our emergency communications system in Douglas County. It is also not an easy task to find reliable satellite phones that work in remote areas. Due to the steep and rugged terrain, a large portion of Douglas County is not ‘cell’ phone accessible. They rely on these phones for communications from forest fire camps; disaster events like our snow storm and floods last year that knocked out towers and phone service; monitoring wildlife poaching; and for mapping and data for Search and Rescue missions. These types of emergency communications systems are used frequently by government, business and private entities all around the world. The fee you describe is the one- time initial cost of those phones, and the average monthly fee is in line with an average cell phone monthly charge. Further, the County Radio Department pays for a portion of the cost of the satellite phones. Only three of the phones are used by the Commissioners.
3) At least 38 meals for which you provided no itemized receipt, for dinners most frequently, including at hotel bars, ignoring the county’s travel policy which requires itemized receipts for reimbursement;
The personnel policy in regards to county travel reporting for which you reference here was recently updated to include the inclusion of receipts for expenses submitted for reimbursement. Many of the receipts presented were turned in prior to the policy update. The new policy was instituted by 2 of the 3 current Commissioners, and they are diligently working with all staff to make sure they are compliant with the new policy.
As noted to you before, the Douglas County Management and Finance Department has received the prestigious Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for their comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), every year for the last 31 years. According to GFOA, “The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.”
We would like to state that absolutely no alcohol was ever purchased using county funds. All receipts at restaurants are for meals only.
4) Attendance and duties with the Assn. of O&C Counties, an independent association, including the shipping of an AOCC award to a DC lobbyist;
Time spent with the Association of O&C Counties is Education work. For over a decade, counties, not just Douglas County, that receive these Title III dollars have used them for travel to attend local, regional and national conferences; forest land related meetings; educational industry related seminars and for forest fire education management. These are all by definition, educational and qualified expenditures. In fact, the Oregon Association of Counties lists the conferences under the heading Education on their website.
As mentioned numerous times before, I will remind you that the travel expenditures in question have been externally audited and then certified every year by the United States Forest Service. Are you also looking at other counties that receive these dollars? How did they spend and track these dollars? We are not the only county in Oregon or in the United States that receives Title III funding. In fact, there are over 700 counties in over 40 states that receive Title III funding. Have you investigated their spending? You might take a look at Multnomah County and the fact that they sent 8-9 delegates every year to the same conferences. The travel list includes not only Commissioners, but their support staff as well. What tax dollars, Title III or Federal dollars did they use to pay for the travel of 8-9 delegates?
5) Lodging for your pet at Sunriver;
Yes, Commissioner Freeman attended a NACo Western Interstate Region (WIR) Annual Conference in Sunriver for which he chose to take his dog. The cost was $16.25/day for 4 days. He makes no excuses for taking his dog. Many people travel with companion animals. And, the receipts provided clearly show that the hotel “pet free” was paid for personally by Commissioner Freeman directly to the hotel and not charged to the county credit card.
6) Extensive travel to resorts across the West – Skamania Lodge, Sunriver, Sun Valley, Jackson Hole, among others;
As you can clearly see, by the documentation provided on the receipts that all travel to these locations was for government business and not personal. All of these locations, days and times listed were locations for local, regional and national conferences, forest and land related meetings and educational and industry related seminars for which we did not select the location. Again, I will remind you that the travel expenditures in question have been externally audited and then certified every year by the United States Forest Service.
Commissioner Freeman is one of only 2 Oregon Commissioners on the NACo Western Interstate Region (WIR) Board. Each year the WIR Conference brings together county officials from across the nation to focus on pressing issues facing counties and their residents. Each year the conference is hosted by a county within the fifteen Western states—Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming—and provides attendees with the opportunity to interact with federal, state and regional policymakers, participate in educational sessions and take home tools to address challenges. Commissioner Freeman drives to those conferences. Time spent at these conferences is some of the most important work we can do for our County’s future. Again, please note, we were not alone, representatives from the Department of the Interior, US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are all at the same conferences along with dozens of County Commissioners representing the 15 Western States.
The Skamania Lodge is the location for the American Forest Resource Council’s (AFRC) Annual Meeting. Numerous county’s send delegates to this annual educational meeting to learn about the health of our public & private forests, the enforcement of sound forestry practices and to meet with BLM, the Department of the Interior and the USFS staff.
7) A jetboat dinner tour of the Rogue River;
The receipt for the jetboat was for a dinner while attending an O&C meeting. The cost was not more than any normal dinner would be. He was joined by other County Commissioners from all around Oregon. This dinner took place during a major forest fire in that area, and by taking the jetboat the O&C Board members were able to directly observe fire crews and helicopters fighting that fire.
8) A sternwheeler tour of the Columbia Gorge;
The only receipt for a Sternwheeler was for a $15.00 meal at the Sternwheeler Restaurant in Cascade Locks, Oregon. This was for lunch when Commissioner Freeman traveled from Roseburg to Pendleton in June 2016 to serve as a panelist for the Association of Oregon Counties Conference. He did not go on a tour and it was the only meal receipt he turned in for that day. Not sure why you made up a story that he took a tour? BTW, if you did your homework, you would see that tours start at over $30.
9) Numerous expenses that were redacted with no legal justification.
There were 5 total pages that had redactions on them out of the 1,000 of pages provided in your public records request. Upon request we supplied you with the legal reasoning for the redactions.
We provided our legal response for the redactions in an earlier email: “The 5 pages with items redacted from the documents were not related to the criteria outlined in your public records request.
The first redacted document was a personal credit card statement for a previous Commissioner which listed his wife’s name, credit card balance and purchases not related to county business.
Items redacted pursuant to: ORS 192.338, 192.345, 192.355, 192.363 and 192.377.
The remaining 4 documents had items redacted that were not related to your public records request. They are not expenses reimbursed for Title III. If you wish to submit a public records request for those expenses, please do so and we would be happy to help you with that.”
By the way, 5 pages out of 1,000’s does not equate to the term ‘numerous’, that is a gross over exaggeration to say the least.
10) Can you explain why you used this money on those expenses?
The monies are used as approved by Congress for Education Travel expenses. The Education Travel grant has been in place for over a decade. It might be the only funding available that is non- discretionary and can used for travel.
11) Did you spend the money on alcoholic beverages? Did you withhold itemized receipts because they would have showed Title III money being spent on booze?
Again, absolutely no alcohol was ever purchased using county funds. All receipts at these restaurants are for meals only. This is an outlandish and unfounded accusation.
12) Why were Title III funds spent on premium and first-class airfare?
Response provided above in question #1.
13) Why were Title III funds spent on your routine duties as a commissioner or as a participant with AOCC (attending fire briefings, traveling to Salem, AOCC board meetings, etc.)?
Attending the conferences, meetings and seminars is not a routine duty as a Commissioner. Much of the lands the State of Oregon manages is intermixed with the checker board O&C Forest Lands. What that State does on the land they manage effects the Federal O&C Forest Lands, and the other way around. The O&C President, serves as one of the tri-chairs of the AOC forest sub-committee for that reason. It was in that capacity travel was made. Plus, as you can clearly read in stories published by your newspaper, this work and education has resulted in victories in the Oregon Circuit and Federal District Courts with the recent court case judgements in favor of the Counties. Without this work, counties like Douglas County that rely on federal dollars, would long since be insolvent.
None of the Title III dollars were used to pay for Commissioner’s salaries. They have only been used for reasonable and approved expenses.
14) It appears that you and other commissioners have treated SRS Title III money as a personal slush fund. Would you agree with that characterization? If not, why?
This is an absolute, unfounded lie. As stated and provided before, all travel utilizing Title III funding was for government business and education, and was never used for personal travel. Further, every year our travel expenditures are included in our annual audit performed by an independent external auditor. The auditors thoroughly review all Title III expenditures. We have strictly followed the current law and guidelines, while documenting every dime spent.
Further, in 2012 the United States Forest Service issued a report, and then in 2016 performed an audit review on multiple counties Title III expenditures. Both the report and the audit concluded that Douglas County was in compliance with the federal guidelines for the use and spending of Title III dollars.
15) Why was SRS Title III money spent on satellite phones?
Response provided above in question #2.
16) Given the county’s serious financial problems, its inability to keep libraries open, its struggles with funding basics like sheriff’s patrols, do you think you’ve been a sound fiscal steward of the county’s money?
I would like to remind you once again, that the Title III dollars in question are restricted funds instituted and approved by the United States Congress. They can only be used for a very narrow scope of approved projects with very strict usage guidelines, again governed and approved by Congress. Educational travel is an approved and allowable use of this funding. We cannot and have not used them for any other purpose, than for what they have been designated.
As much as Douglas County and other Counties that receive these funds would like, we are not able to use them for libraries, public safety, law enforcement or ‘basics’ as you describe in your email or have been erroneously reported in the news. It is simply; not legal.
If you can convince Congress to change the guidelines and allow this funding to be used for these services, that would be a huge help to Douglas County and many other counties dealing with the restrictive use requirements. We support and are happy to follow any new guidelines Congress decides on these funding dollars.
We are currently working with the Oregon delegation to change the allowable uses for these dollars to the most current allowable use. Although available online, we would be happy to provide the Title III fund guide information that accurately outlines and details the approved usage and projects.
January 15, 2020
Mr. Rob Davis
RE: Response to Questions sent to Commissioner Tim Freeman
RE: Response to Questions sent to Commissioner Chris Boice
Again, your line of questioning to Commissioner Boice is unfounded and full of accusations and slander.
1) Travel to Arizona to meet Doyel Shamley. A 2014 Mother Jones piece described him as “a consultant and natural resources coordinator for Arizona’s Apache County … by night, he’s a conspiracy theorist who until recently hosted an online radio show called The Hour of the Time, during which he speculates that UFO sightings are a false-flag operation by the Illuminati to accumulate more power, and federal agents killed his friend because he was asking questions about the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Commissioner Boice did travel to Arizona to meet Doyle Shamley, who in his capacity as a Natural Resources Coordinator for Apache County, Arizona, and has had some success working with the US Forest Service on managing Federal Lands for fire resiliency and job creation. He is unaware of what Mr. Shamley does by night, nor does he care what Mr. Shamley, you or anyone else does in their spare time.
2) A flight upgrade to premium class;
In his travels to Arizona, he did fly, but he made no specific requests for an upgrade to “premium class”. He is an above average sized man who tries to be considerate of whomever the poor soul who has to sit next to him for several hours, may feel about him overflowing into their seat. Therefore, he may have asked for an aisle exit row or bulkhead seat. He can assure you that it was not a “First Class” ticket. However, he is confident that in your depiction, your readers will likely not be able to distinguish the two.
3) A rental car upgrade, including satellite radio;
He did utilize a rental car, but again made no specific request for any “upgrade, including satellite radio”. It was an average 4 door sedan, as he recalled, but again, he is confident your depiction will tell a different story.
4) Brochures costing $2000 to explain to county residents why the county was instituting fees on county parks
The brochures that were created and printed were specifically to educate the public on how reduced revenues from federal timber harvests are requiring the county to impose fees in areas that were never required before, such as parks and solid waste. They are directly related to federal forest education.
5) Satellite phones costing $6500
This question was answered in #2 response of other question response provided.
6) A 2018 trip to the White House
He did travel to Washington, D.C. and visit the White House while he was there. He was also able to speak to several individuals including the Secretary of the Interior. This direct conversation was to continue to educate him about the effects of current management strategies on federal lands are affecting the health of the forest and people in Douglas County.
7) A Roseburg chamber of commerce awards dinner ticket;
He is unaware that a Roseburg Chamber of Commerce awards dinner ticket was paid for using Title III Funds, as that is really not his decision to make. But, he has been to many of those including several to speak about the effects of how federal forest management affects the County budget, economy, way of life and the health of the people who live here.
In closing he has requested that anyone from Douglas County who has any concern over this, and wants to hear the whole story, instead of the slanted version from the environmentalist propagandist, including all of the things we pay for with our own money in an effort to save precious tax payers money, and the colossal amount of time of our own personal time that we spend doing this work, to contact his office directly. He also asks that you print his response in its entirety, as you are well known for skewing the information to support a particular environmentalist agenda.
Mr. Rob Davis
RE: Copy of responses sent to Mr. Davis via email on October 23, 2019
In response to your recent inquiry, I have been asked to provide the following responses from Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman.
Q: County commissioners have allocated at least $43,000 in Secure Rural Schools money to their own travel budget since 2015.
A: Our County Commissioners budget includes funds for both grant related and non-grant related reimbursable expenses. The County tracks expenses separately for the different programs.
I don’t have the exact total, but each year there is an actual amount entered into the actual column.
However, I will remind you, that in those 5 years there have been 6 Douglas County Commissioners. I know at least 4 of those Commissioners have traveled to Washington, D.C., and it is entirely possible that all 6 have used some part of the allocated travel funding. Commissioner Freeman is the Commissioner that works with the majority of Federal Land Management issues, so he is sure he has used the most.
Q: Over the course of four months, I’ve repeatedly sought documentation to account for that spending and the county has been unable to provide it.
A: This morning we asked for a copy of the two public information requests you submitted. Both had been fulfilled, as per your request.
Q: Records show you spent some of the Secure Rural Schools money on $580 for Ubers and two airport meals in March 2018 and April 2019, including one trip back to your hotel from a street corner across the street from the Washington Nationals baseball park on the evening that a game was played there. That leaves more than $42,000 still unaccounted for – and possibly much more, given the continued allocation of $30K annually.
A: If you look at the budget sheets, you will notice that the $30,000 is just a place holder. The SRS is a program reimbursable grant. Further, only qualified expenses are charged to meet the grant obligation.
The Title III dollars for education allow the County to provide an opportunity for new Commissioners to travel and meet with members of the Congressional delegation and their staff to gain knowledge regarding issues and projects that are of critical importance to the County and its citizens. Conversely, there are times when a County Commissioner will be invited to meetings and/or Congressional hearings to explain and educate Senators, Representatives and their staff on certain conditions that are impacting the County. This gives the County the option to use Title III dollars for these purposes, while using general fund dollars for other purposes.
Q: Among the missing details – how your hotel, meals, airfare and other expenses were paid.
A: See below.
Q: What was the purpose of those two trips and with whom did you meet?
A: The 2018 trip to Washington, D.C. was for the Annual NACO Legislative Conference. Commissioner Freeman is on the Natural Resource Committee, and he is one of two Oregon County Commissioners (west side) that serve on the WIR of NACO Board of Directors. Additionally, while in Washington, D.C., he (himself and a group of Commissioners from Oregon) meet with the Congressional delegation or their staff from Oregon. They also meet with staff in the Department of Interior and other departments related to natural resource management staff from the BLM, USFW and others.
The 2019 trip was a make-up trip. He had to cancel his scheduled 2019 Annual NACO trip due to the fact that Douglas County was in a state of emergency from the big snow storm. He was need here in Douglas County to help with that work. The 2019 trip included meetings with both of Oregon’s Senators, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, Representative Peter DeFazio, Representative Greg Walden, Congressional Staff, DOI Staff and USFS staff.
For more information about recent trips, here are links to Douglas County Board of Commissioners Connections eNewsletters:
In regards to the UBER location, can you please provide the date and amount of the UBER receipt? That way we can track the trip and be able to provide you with the reason for the location.
Q: Who paid your way?
A: He is working for Douglas County Government, and they paid the cost.
Q: Where are the receipts?
A: These receipts are in the information you requested in your latest public records request.
Q: How has the rest of the Secure Rural Schools travel grant money been spent?
A: ALL monies spent in Douglas County are spent following the strictest guidelines. We are subject to an annual audit. Here is a link so you to review our 2018 audited financial statement. http://www.co.douglas.or.us/finance/Financial_Reports_2018.asp
Further, Douglas County has for many years (31 to be exact) received the prestigious Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for their comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR).
A copy of the press release announcing the award can be found at the following link: http://www.co.douglas.or.us/media_room/2019/08_august/08-21-19%20Douglas%20County%20Receives%20National%20Award%20For%20Excellence%20in%20Finan cial%20Reporting.pdf
Q: Why have commissioners awarded themselves grant money to travel given that its intended use is to ease the county’s transition off of federal receipts from timber harvests?
A: We will need to disagree about the intended use of SRS, there are over 700 counties in 40 states that rely on SRS and over 4400 school districts.
Please review the link to today’s press release from Representative Peter DeFazio. https://defazio.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/defazio-leads-bipartisan-effort-to-extend-securerural-schools-program
For the purpose of this discussion, I believe your concern is about the 2000 SRS Title III funding used for the county’s travel grant. First, be very clear regardless of what funding is used for, my Natural Resource work it is absolutely an expense that Douglas County is willing to pay. Congress did restrict how the small percentage of Title III SRS could be spent. Many Counties used their 2000 SRS Title III funds for a travel grant. We are the only county (at least in Oregon) with some of that old money left. When Congress re-authorized the funding they stipulated that the 2000 SRS Title III funds that were appropriated to the counties, could only be spent on projects previously approved and were ongoing.
When Commissioner Freeman took office in 2015 there were only three ongoing projects; 1) Communities for Healthy Forests; 2) Wildlife Service’s APHIS; and 3) The Commissioner’s Office Travel Grant. So as per Federal Law, Douglas County CAN NOT spend this funding anywhere else. You may think we can, but the law is very clear.
Q: Do you think it is acceptable to use federal money to lobby federal officials?
A: The educational work Commissioner Freeman and the other Douglas County Commissioners have performed since 2015 is absolutely crucial to receiving funding for Douglas County. Our work has returned an excess of $53 Million in supplemental Federal funding to the citizens of Douglas County for vital county services.
- We have been involved and on the forefront with explaining to Federal Agency’s their mistakes on issues like sequestration.
- We have been asked to testify on a Forest Management Bill in front of a congressional committee.
- We have been invited to the White House for briefings and to provide local government input.
- We have been personally invited to the White House by the President of the United States to attend a critical event that affected our county.
Douglas County is over 50% federally controlled, and the most important issues facing our County are going to be solved in Washington DC. I am not sure if you are aware, but we are the number one recipient of SRS funding in the nation. The work we do collaborating with other counties in Oregon and in the western United States, is the only way we are going to solve the problem. So the answer is YES!
Q: The county says it will provide documentation of those other $42,000+ in expenses if The Oregonian pays nearly $2,000 for 170 pages of documents that are estimated to take a clerical employee nearly a week to assemble. That’s a price of nearly $12 per page. Your communications staffer says the board has denied our fee waiver request. In what venue did the board meet to discuss the fee waiver request? Has that waiver request and denial decision appeared on any county meeting agendas?
A: I believe you were given the answer to this question.